The power of shared history
by Dr. Dave Currie
I have a unique, one-of-a-kind shared history with Donalyn. It may be the richest gift we share with someone as human beings. Truly appreciating this mutual journey may be one of the greatest recognitions you’ll make for deepening your most important relationship. Let me attempt to explain.
Shared history is the unbroken connection between two people (husband and wife) through a never-ending variety of mutual life experiences – large and small – enjoyable and tragic – momentous and mundane – private and public – where the one common thread through it all is your counterpart in married life. You are witness to each other’s developing story and are irrevocably braided together into a mystical one that we call ‘us’.
Your shared history with our spouse – these mutual life events and personal experiences – are what glue you together. The unique bond formed makes your spouse the one and only person who has seen it all, been with you through thick and thin, and was there even before the water started going under the bridge. They, and they alone, share the combined love-and-life narrative with you. They are the exclusive witness of your life – and together through this shared history you have created your unique version of the ‘us’.
What creates your shared history
It’s the fun adventures you’ve had: Entertaining activities and exciting pursuits help shape your story too. Walks on beaches, swims in lakes and splashes in oceans. Each event you do together carves an image on your marital tree.
It’s the romantic gestures you’ve exchanged: It starts with your rich and exclusive dating history. Ice cream fights at Dairy Queen, long walks in the park and music concerts of the day. It’s the flirting, endless calls, long letters and cards of thoughtfulness and romance. It’s your love story – the warmth, the affection, the playfulness and the closeness. It’s your engagement, the wedding and the honeymoon. And yes, it includes your sexual passion, the places you’ve made love. It’s all about you two – no one else. Now you share your own set of inside jokes, reminiscing one-liners, knowing looks and so much more all because of so many fabulous moments together.
It’s the Special Places you’ve visited: Where you go and what you see enriches your life. We’ve had the privilege to be far and wide together. We did it all – together. What are your memorable places?
It’s the Family Developments you’ve created: It includes the moves you made. It’s the job transitions and the career changes. It’s a ton of decisions made together from type of broom to size of deep freezer. It’s the places you have lived. Then there are those amazing moments as you share the birth of your children. Life-changing – really! Watching them grow through all life’s passages. The years of active parental engagement. Hours of watching kids in sports, of helping with homework and taxiing them around. For us, vacations together in our mini-van. Our annual Mount Baker family hike at Thanksgiving for 22 years. Our Kenya missions trip touched us all. The kids pairing off and their subsequent weddings. Then, it’s the birth celebrations of 13 grandchildren. Life goes on. Our history deepens.
It’s the Crisis Events you’ve endured: Life scares tear at the fabric of your life. Our son, Mitchell, being hit by a car at age 9, Keldy being in a car accident, Donalyn being hit by a cyclist and almost losing Jody at 3½ years old at a water slide park. We have faced concussions, surgeries, and cancer. We were in these hardships together. We developed a crisis intimacy.
It’s the Life-Defining Events you’ve experienced: Our significant events will be different than yours. We’d had the privilege for nearly 25 years of speaking together about God’s perspective on marriage and family themes. We’ve lost both of my parents now and have helped with some life transitions for Donalyn’s. We’ve been on ministry trips to various places – each carrying deeply enriching moments and memories. This list of influences on your shared history is not exhaustive. You could add sporting events you’ve attended, amazing people you’ve encountered and groups you’ve socialized with. You’ve both been shaped by crazy happenings you’ve witnessed, significant moments of support you’ve felt and more. Your lives are a rich tapestry of unique experiences.
Shared history can also be a shared hell (at least for a while) if you are not committed to becoming the best decision your spouse ever made. Face it. We all have to work through the tough seasons in our marriage. That’s how life goes sometimes in relationships. Don’t give up, wisely push through by humbly owning your mistakes, being gracious in forgiveness and recommit to love again. Even working through rough patches in your marriage is a significant part of shared history. God knows the end from the beginning. He alone knows how your story will end. The Psalmist said “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16). He’s got a good plan for your life, keep the Lord Jesus in the middle of your shared history. Submit your lives to Him daily.
How to deepen your shared history as a couple
Your story will deepen you as you embrace and examine it more. Here are some tips to build deeper marital connection:
1. Review your shared history regularly. It’s a great way to continue to celebrate and appreciate all that has gone on.
2. Each New Year’s, share highlights together. Exchange your five greatest highlights and five greatest challenges of the last 12 months.
3. Keep photos of your shared history. Record the fun and adventures, romantic gestures and special dates.
4. Carve out time for each other. Set a regular date night for keeping close and connected.
5. Try new things together.
6. Work through your issues. Don’t let bitterness and pride rob you from enjoying the journey.
7.Work to create a warm and caring shared history, enjoy life together now.
8. Be intentional in all you do. Keep creating the adventure and the intrigue.
9. Celebrate – don’t criticize each other. Listen to the tone of your conversations. Drop the edge and be an encouragement.
10. Let God anchor your shared history. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Your shared history – those memories of significantly connecting events and experiences – are the sum total of the marital ‘us’. It is the dynamic mystery of a lifetime of committed love and life together – that sacred connection of two people who do become one. Write a good history.
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